Resistance, hope & resilience

Wound is the Shelter is a collection of poems initially composed in Bengali and subsequently translated into English by Angshuman Kar himself. This unique collection of poetry offers the readers profound insights on universal pain and suffering and the wound that is left in its wake.

Resistance, hope & resilience

Wound is the Shelter by Angshuman Kar

Angshuman Kar in his collection of poems Wound is the Shelter explores a plethora of complex human experiences, ranging from pain, loss, injustice, resistance, hope and resilience. In Wound is the Shelter the poet evokes “wound” as a metaphor that bridges the physical and symbolic, illustrating how tangible injuries can mirror intangible suffering. This duality allows the poet to explore the interconnectedness of body and mind, and how physical wounds can symbolise deeper emotional or existential crises. However the poet does not stop at the personal, his metaphor of wound encapsulates broader contexts, such as the political, the social as well as the environmental. His is a commentary on the conflict, struggles and trauma experienced by the marginalised, the “others” of this society. The wound metaphor is also used to illustrate the process of healing through acknowledgment and expression. The poet suggests that writing can heal wounds by bearing witness to them, both personal and collective, emphasizing the therapeutic potential of artistic expression. Kar treats complex themes of human existence with lucidity and dexterity.. By focusing on essential truths and avoiding superfluous details, the poet delivers a message that resonates deeply with the reader. The directness of Kar’s language makes the truth more accessible and impactful.

Wound is the Shelter is a collection of poems initially composed in Bengali and subsequently translated into English by Angshuman Kar himself. This unique collection of poetry offers the readers profound insights on universal pain and suffering and the wound that is left in its wake. However, for the poet “Wound” is not only a site for pain, despair and laceration but also a space where healing occurs making way for hope and resurrection. Each poem gives us a peek into the ordinary, the mundane humdrum of human existence. But as the poet gradually unfolds the brief glimpses of the human condition, the poems are transformed into something sublime and the poet compels the readers to contemplate life’s little challenges, triumphs, ironies and paradoxes. The use of language in this collection is often direct and unembellished, allowing the poet to convey profound truths succinctly.

In this collection, memories serve as a space where the personal, cultural and historical intertwine, engage and have a dialogue with each other. Nostalgia for a past, for times bygone, is deeply entrenched in the fabric of Kar’s poems. Kar tries to record significant societal changes through a doting glimpse of the nostalgic past in poems like the “Fridge.” The poet’s reflective journey is marked by a profound sense of nostalgia, loss, and transformation, which are explored through various literary devices. The poet employs paradox to highlight the tension between the past and the present. The familiar space that once provided comfort now feels alien, illustrating how time alters our perception and emotional connection to places and relationships. This paradox invites readers to contemplate the bitter-sweet nature of memories and the inevitable changes brought by time. The poet’s introspective approach reveals a deep yearning for a bygone era. Poems like “The Rented House” use metaphors of old relationships to evoke nostalgia and the pain of moving on. This reflective process allows readers to engage with their own memories and emotions, understanding the complexity of holding onto the past while navigating the present.


In this collection of poems, Kar also emphasizes the changing nature of relationships in the modern world of technology. The tension between two distinct ways of life is brought about explicitly. Technology, that was meant to connect, has gradually led to dis-connections, fractures and statics. In the poem “Old Friends,” Kar writes: “Old friends are like/a phone call that comes floating on air/and is full of dropped words/because of weak signals.” The way relationships have drastically changed with evolving time also exposes new and alternating avenues of pain. This is poignantly brought out in a poem titled “Delete” where the simple act of deleting the phone number of a dear friend takes on a magnitude of its own creating disquiet and existential angst. The poet questions the whole purpose of gadgets like memory cards that have robbed man of the magic and excitement of the “moments” in the poem “Memory Card.”  He laments:“No tension, no waiting, no preparation./ Clicking a photo is a simple thing now./Moments have lost their value/for ever.” This loss of an emotional past is also like a haunting, gaping wound that leaves a scar on the soul of man.

Kar’s poems are great social commentaries. His use of rich images evokes the pulse of the life of the middle class and the poor. He frequently brings the inequality that is rampant in society by juxtaposing images of opulence and depravity. In “Hunger,” the image of the waiter serving biryani at a restaurant poignantly brings out the grim reality of society. The nostalgia of the little joys and sorrows give way to life’s challenges of putting “stale rice on an enamel plate.” Hunger and helplessness also emerge as recurring themes in poems like “Dirty Moon”: “A life has been found in the dustbin./It looks like a moon.” What really captures the attention of the readers is the use of images from everyday life that adds layers to his poetry. Tigers, birds, toys, masks, poems, wells, rivers and seas take on a living breathing existence revealing the gaping wounds that life inflicts and the universal nature of the pain. In the “Tiger Poems,” the poet evokes the tiger within one’s being, lying dormant, awaiting its time to wake up again.This call to action shines out through poems like “The Poet” in which the silent rage of a wounded poet evokes the potential that an artist has to start a revolution—

“And Yes, remember,/The thing that you are holding with your three fingers/Is not a pen but a swan, an aeroplane,/Or a pistol.”

Kar’s poetry stands out for its reflexivity, empathy, and powerful social commentary. His work not only resonates emotionally with readers but also serves as a catalyst for social change.Kar’s poems are noted for their introspective nature and emotional depth. By combining reflexivity with empathy and compassion, his poetry transcends mere societal critique, fostering a deeper understanding of and connection with the experiences of marginalized groups. Kar’s poetry, as seen in works like “Defeated Man,” amplifies the voices of the marginalized and oppressed. His effortless style in speaking for the voiceless and giving space to the “Other” highlights his commitment to social justice.

In Wound is the Shelter, Angshuman Kar depicts a cosmos scarred with ancient and contemporary wounds. His philosophical outlook takes us through timeless scars that are left on the pages of history, engraved there through the sorrows and tears of the Mother. The Mother figure emerges time and again in his poem both as an emblem of tears, pain, loss as well as shelter, hope and sanctuary. The poem delicately weaves a story of resilience and perseverance, brilliantly intertwining themes of war, violence, social and political strife, and inner struggles. Despite the weight of these subjects, Kar’s verses emanate a sense of hope and optimism, transforming the narrative into one of resilience and strength.

A juxtaposition of pain, wonder, paradox and irony constitutes the major undercurrents of Anghuman Kar’s poetry. The unresolved conflicts of the anguished human experience are beautifully expressed in the poems like the “Wound” where the wound of the tree serves as a shelter for numerous others: “A whole in a tree, which actually is its wound,/Is a shelter to many….” Thus, a wound, to him, is not only the cause of despair but also an opportunity for connections, for reaching out and for empathy. For the poet, one who is wounded can be a shelter for many. Just like the hole in the tree serves as refuge to the birds similarly empathy can act as a shelter and balm for the anguished. Kar’s ability to engage both in physical spaces like city squares and rural areas, as well as social media, underscores the widespread appeal and relevance of his poetry. By railing against complacency, his work highlights the necessity of poetry in times of crisis, ensuring its continued relevance and influence in inspiring future generations. The style of his English translations retains the same level of readability and engagement as do the Bengali originals. His evocative and impactful writing ensures that his voice will continue to resonate and inspire.

The reviewer is assistant professor of English, IMS, Ghaziabad

Wound is the Shelter

By Angshuman Kar

Hawakal Publishers, 2023

94 pages, Rs 350/-